Lippi enters the Respect debate – but is he on the losing side?
Italy boss Marcello Lippi did that this week when he reprimanded his country’s professional footballers for their treatment of referees at a ceremony celebrating the 40th anniversary of their union, the AIC.
“No one could have Italian footballers more dear to their heart than me, they made me world champion,” he said. “But something unpleasant exists, there are bad manners on the field. Relations with opponents and, above all, with referees are rude, vulgar and taste of animosity.
“Insults, swearing, expressions of intolerance have become habitual. The referee is faced with the dilemma of pretending not to hear to save the match or sending people off and spoiling the spectacle. Either way he gets criticised.”
The problem is certainly not limited to Serie A and Lippi’s comments take him into a debate sparked by the FA’s Respect campaign in England.
Launched earlier this year, the initiative is already on the ropes as it seems to have amplified attention on the errors referees inevitably commit, producing more questions than solutions.
What can players get away with? Should refs be made to speak to reporters after matches to explain their decisions and admit when they get things wrong?
Might it not be easier to encourage respect by upping the level of refereeing with the use of video replays rather than by ‘awareness-raising’ drives?
Jose Mourinho said on Tuesday that Italian referees have it even harder than their Premier League colleagues because in England “there is lots of fair play and the game finishes with the referee’s final whistle”. In Italy, on the other hand, they have to contend with a roasting in the media as well as grief from players and coaches.
Sevilla’s Italian midfielder Enzo Maresca said he had seen “more replays in half an hour tonight than in four years in Spain” while taking part in a TV show on Sunday that was analysing controversial penalty calls in AC Milan’s 2-2 draw at Torino.
Lippi thinks that player associations should make moves to cut out the surliness because “a union should not just defend its members’ rights, but also their dignity”.
But I reckon this is unlikely to work too because in football, disrespect pays!
Dissent is not just about letting off steam in the heat of battle. It’s also a way to pressure officials into being softer on your side in subsequent decisions. If a ref makes a dodgy call, it’s a good idea to make sure he knows so he’ll think twice next time. It’s a tactic and one that is hard to wipe out because it’s successful.
Lippi has won all the trophies in his illustrious career. But this time he may well be on the losing side.
PHOTO:Italy coach Marcello Lippi conducts a training session in Coverciano, Aug. 18. REUTERS/Marco Bucco